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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to:

News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

Maidstone Grammar School (MGS), one of Kent’s flagship selective schools, has lost its Outstanding Ofsted status following its recent Inspection with Report published yesterday. The Inspection was presumably triggered after 'legitimate concerns' (according to Ofsted below) had been expressed about the decline in its academic performance.


The headlines of the Report, published in January, refer to disappointing GCSE results in 2017. However, they choose not  to mention that those for 2018 were  considerably worse. These saw the school delivering the fourth lowest Progress 8 score of any of the 38 Kent and Medway grammar schools, the government’s preferred measure of performance. It was eighth lowest for Attainment 8. The results come from a school that selected most of its pupils by setting a high pass score in the Kent Test, and yet still performed worse on both d than the other local grammar, Oakwood Park which recruits a significant number of pupils from appeal.  You will find an article on performance of  Kent grammar schools here including details of MGS relative performance, and background to Maidstone Grammar data here.

This Report also comes with a mystery, as explained below. 


Note: you will find GCSE performance here for Kent and Medway.  

This article looks at A Level performance for Kent and Medway schools in the summer of 2018. It is difficult to make comparative judgements at this level as schools vary so much in the pattern of their intake into Year 12 that the Achievement tables in particular are of limited value. However, Progress from GCSE to A Level can be revealing, with good non-selective schools tending to better than many grammar schools for their students, so may be a useful contribution to decisions on where to follow one's studies. 

The highest performer is Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School followed by, in order: Valley Park; St George’s CofE, Gravesend; Longfield Academy; Bennett Memorial; Herne Bay; Oakwood Park Grammar; Holcombe Grammar; and Weald of Kent Grammar. QEGS is one of nine schools whose students who have made 'Above Average' progress over the two years in the Sixth Form. 

Dane Court Grammar has the lowest grammar school performance and is the only selective school in the ten graded 'Well Below Average' for progress. 

There are four alternative  measures for determining attainment. Highest across the board in all four measures is The Judd School. Then come Tunbridge Wells Girls, Skinners and Rochester Grammar; with Norton Knatchbull by some way at the bottom of the grammar schools list. Four schools top the non-selective list, unsurprisingly Bennett Memorial and St Gregory’s, along with two Gravesend schools: St George’s CofE; and St John’s Catholic. These four are amongst the six church schools in the top ten non-selective schools.  

Friday, 26 October 2018 06:40

GCSE Performance for Medway Schools: 2018

The key measure of GCSE Performance is Progress 8 (full table here) .Under this measure Medway is slightly above the National Average of -0.02, at +0.02 (with just one school Well Below Average, contrasted with Kent's 15). Attainment 8 (full table here) has Medway just below the National score of 46.5, at 46.0.

Highlights:  Three grammar schools have Well Above Average Progress Grades led by Rochester Grammar, followed by Chatham Girls. Holcombe Grammar is at the foot with an Average Progress Grade coming below the non-selective Sir Thomas Aveling. Five of the six grammars have Attainment scores within three points of each other, again led by Rochester Grammar, with Holcombe  again limping along behind. Chatham Grammar Girls comes top for the percentage of pupils gaining Level 5 or better in English and Maths.

Amongst non-selective schools, pupils at Thomas Aveling and Rainham Girls score above Average Progress grades. The only school scoring Well below Average is unsurprisingly, Medway UTC. Rainham Girls leads Thomas Aveling in Attainment, with Victory Academy at the foot, just behind Medway UTC.

You will find all the individual outcomes for Medway schools here.

Saturday, 19 January 2019 17:51

Turner Schools: What were they trying to hide?

 For another point of view try  Shepway Vox. The two articles have much in common but there are important differences. 

I now know why Turner Schools tried to block my FOI asking for School Census details for their four schools, following my successful complaint to the Information Commissioner. The relevant data is as follows: 

 Turner Schools intakes: decline from 2017 to 2018
Year 7 
Sept 2018
Year 7
Sept 2017
Folkestone Academy 270 198 27% 267 26%
Turner Free School
Martello Primary 30 22 27% 28 21%
Morehall Primary School 60 14 77% 29 52%

 Note: PAN is Published Admission Number

 The information now extracted which you will find in full here, identifies a number of worrying features for the Trust.  
All three established schools have seen a sharp fall in intake, with Morehall Primary having the largest proportion of empty spaces in the county in Year R. Overall, there are just 68 vacancies across Folkestone’s 14 primary schools, with Martello and Morehall accounting for 79% of them.
At secondary level, the opening of Turner Free School has caused a sharp fall in intake at Folkestone Academy, in spite of illogical assurances by the Trust it would not be affected. The recent decision by the Trust to increase the intake of Turner Free School by another 60 places to 180 for 2019 admission will have an even deeper effect on numbers. Meanwhile, Year 12 numbers have fallen by an astonishing 45% in two years.  Overall, the school roll fell by an astonishing 268 students or 12% of its total in the past year, which will have a massive impact on school finances.

Friday, 19 October 2018 10:46

GCSE Performance for Kent Schools: 2018

The key measure of GCSE performance is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is below the National Average of -0.02, at -0.08. Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent above the National score of 46.5 at 47.1 although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case, as explained below... 


Headlines: The excellent performance of two of Kent's three Free Schools in their first GCSE cohort is a key highlight of the data. Girls grammar schools continue to dominate the Progress 8 table, with eight out of the top twelve schools, all achieving Well Above Average Progress. The list is headed by Weald of Kent and Highworth Grammars, but with Bennett Diocesan Memorial (selecting on religious grounds), in third place. 

The bad news is that 15 schools have fallen under the government Floor Level, all with Well-Below Average Progress  and so potentially facing government intervention. This is more than double last year's figure of six schools, with four present in all three years of the new arrangements.  Government also has a measure of 'Coasting Schools', those with poor progress for three years, and Kent has 11 of these, including perhaps surprisingly five Ofsted 'Good Schools': Archbishop's; Homewood; Hugh Christie; North; and Sandwich Technology.  

Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls', exactly as in both 2016 and 2017.  The Non-selective table is again led by Bennett Memorial, followed by Trinity School (Free) and Skinners Kent Academy. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables. 


Further information below, including the performance of many individual schools. The 2018 data for all Kent secondary schools is listed here, along with several other measures.


Channel Four Documentary about Home Education on February 4th at 10.15 p.m., called: Skipping School: Britain's Invisible Kids.

I have been involved in its production and appear in the programme, being interviewed by the Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, OBE,and am preparing a second article setting out my views on this. 

The number of children leaving Kent schools for Elective Home Education (EHE) in 2017-18   has increased sharply by 20% to 1113 over the past year, but is still less than the peak year of 2013-14. Medway has seen an even larger increase by 62% to 278, and much greater than 2013-14.

The three schools in Kent to lose most children to ‘home schooling’ come as no surprise,  each featuring at the top of this list year on year. These are: High Weald Academy, losing 6.4% of its statutory aged population (11-16); Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, 3.9%; and Hartsdown Academy 3.4%, all losing on average more than one child from every class last year. I look at these schools in more detail below. One common factor is that, for different reasons, most families have no other local alternatives to these schools. Some children who have left may have moved to other schools, been transferred to Pupil Referral Units or are Children Missing from Education (CME) without trace.  Highest for EHE in Medway was Strood Academy with 3.1%.

The figure of 950 Kent children who went missing with no known destination has been swollen by families returning to their homeland, notably in Gravesham and Thanet, home to large numbers of Eastern European families.

I also look below at off-rolling, a practice whereby schools encourage pupils to leave in the final years before GCSE and A Levels, in order to boost their examination outcomes. The data that suggests where such practices operate is headed by two schools that also regularly feature in these pages: Ebbsfleet Academy (GCSE, 17% loss) and Holcombe Grammar in Medway (A Level, with an astonishing 30% of students departing halfway through the A Level course).  

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 19:58

Holmesdale School: Further Revelations

Swale Academies Trust (SAT) has engaged in a series of email exchanges with Kent County Council staff, which have been forwarded to me following a Freedom of Information Request. These culminate in serious allegations that KCC tried to block the Trust’s attempts to prepare the failing Holmesdale School for the best possible start in January.

In particular Swale Academies Trust alleges that: KCC's deliberate and deeply damaging procrastination over the awarding of the support contract left the school without support from June 2018 to late November 2018; KCC attempted to block the appointment of a suitably experienced Headteacher to take on the Headship of Holmesdale at incredibly short notice; and that KCC refused to engage in SAT’s offer to provide Holmesdale with a full complement of teachers for January.


The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) is proposing a radical change to its admission rules from September 2020. This follows the government decision to award some £3 million to each of 16 grammar schools including RGS, to enable them to expand on  condition that these schools have plans  to improve access for pupils on Pupil Premium  and to undertake effective partnerships with local primary schools and non-selective secondary schools, to contribute to improved educational outcomes across the wider system.

.Rochester Grammar

The school, which is part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), has gone out to Consultation to scrap its current academic super-selective status which sees the great majority of its pupils selected through high scores. It plans to become a school that gives admission priority to girls on Pupil Premium from 2020. Then, after several smaller categories (below) it will prioritise local children who have passed the Medway Test no matter what their scores. Given that the Trust runs two Medway grammar schools and has proposed identical admission criteria for both, except that the other school, Holcombe Grammar, is to give no priority whatever to Pupil Premium, so this does not appear a principled decision,  

I look at wider aspects of local implications of the grammar school expansions in a separate article

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